Volume 8 Issue 2 CONTENTS

pdfOn Two Sides of the Border: The Hungarian–Austrian Border Treaty of 1372

Renáta Skorka
Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

The present paper explores the history of the emergence of mixed Hungarian–Austrian commissions in the late Middle Ages. The history of the mixed commissions offers insights into the process during which royal power shifted, in the strategies it adopted in order to address everyday and manifold breaches and dissensions which were common along the border, by negotiations rather than by military intervention. As attested by the sources, this negotiation-based system of conflict resolution between the two neighboring countries appeared in the last decade of the thirteenth century. In the next century, the idea of dividing the Hungarian–Austrian border into sections and submitting the regulation of issues concerning the territories on the two sides of the border emerged, first in 1336 and, then, at the very end of Charles I’s reign in 1341. Under Charles’s son and successor, King Louis I, the first attempt to establish a mixed Hungarian–Austrian commission was made in 1345, resulting in a fairly complicated system. The first documented session of the mixed commission can be connected to the year 1372; it was the border settlement agreed on then that was renewed and adjusted to the requirements of his own age by King Sigismund of Luxemburg in 1411.

Keywords: Hungarian–Austrian border, fourteenth century, mixed commissions, Angevins, Habsburg, Sigismund of Luxemburg

The Western border of the Kingdom of Hungary, which ran along the eastern provinces of the Holy Roman Empire (which at the time were under Habsburg rule), is interesting from the perspective of the historian for several reasons. Not only are there numerous written sources on the history of this border, but these sources suggest that this border was often the site and subject of events which suggest that the histories of the two neighboring polities were much more connected by the border than divided. These connections included the tensions which arose in issues such as the everyday lives of the estates which stretched across the border, the leaseholders’ attempts to cultivate the vineyards and ploughlands of the neighboring countries, the nobles’ changes of allegiance to the side of neighboring rulers, the movements of thieves and rogues who were fleeing from one side of the border to the other, the long-distance traders traveling through provinces with rich stocks, the retailers with local interests, the landholders who shared utilities and owned ferries on the two banks of the border rivers, and taxpayers who paid their taxes in the currency of the neighboring country. These recurrent and, from the perspective of political history, seemingly insignificant conflicts could have had an impact on the relationship between the two countries. In settling disputes, royal power could waver between two possibilities; it could choose armed intervention, by which it could further worsen the diplomatic balance, or it could choose to solve a problem through negotiations. Because of the high number of infringements and the diversity of the cases, negotiations required permanent, recurrent, and, because of the special location, bilateral negotiations, investigations, and legal remedies, which rulers executed with the assistance of representatives. This led to the formation of the mixed Hungarian–Austrian commissions in charge of border disputes in the fourteenth century. The present study gives an overview of the stages of the formation of this commission and provides a detailed analysis of a so far entirely neglected document from 1372 which is the first evidence of a meeting of these commissions. However, as the source is known only in fragmented transcriptions, the starting point of the present work is the renewal of the treaty from 1411, the period during which Sigismund ruled.

“Antecedents” in the Sigismund Period

On October 7, 1411 in Pressburg (today Bratislava), the king of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxemburg, betrothed his two-year-old daughter Elisabeth to the eleven-year old duke of Austria, Albert V of Habsburg, who took measures actively supported by his future father-in-law to be freed from the guardianship of his older relatives, Ernest and Friedrich IV.1 Two days before this event, the king of Hungary and his young protégé issued a document in which they renewed a treaty (dieselbe ordnunge wider czu vernewen) that which was concluded by their predecessors, the late Hungarian King Louis I, and the dukes of Austria Albert III and Leopold III, but put in action by six members of the noble elites (sechs redlicher manne) from Hungary and the Habsburg provinces. The document in question, signed on October 5, 1411 in Pressburg (most probably similarly to its Angevin-period predecessor), in order to facilitate agreement and peace between the two countries, concentrated solely on the border.2 At the time of the renewal of the border agreement, Sigismund started to reclaim the strategically important castle, Devín.3 He ordered the voivode of Transylvania, Stibor, to redeem the castle that stood at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers and was considered one of the western gates of the Kingdom of Hungary, with its belongings along with the castle of Ostrý Kameň from Lesel der Hering, to whom it had been in pledge for a long time (vor czyten).4 We know about Hering that in 1397, as a loyal subject of the Habsburg family in Austria, he received Walterkirchen on the border of the Margravate of Moravia and Austria as a pledge from Albert IV and William, dukes of Austria5 and that, along with numerous members of the Austrian elite, he appeared at the provincial assembly of Eggenburg at the end of May 1411, where the supporters of the young Albert V secretly took an oath to support the child kept in custody,6 setting the stage for the border agreement and the betrothal in October.

The 1411 border agreement, however, probably has roots not only in the Hungarian estates pledged to Austrians. Violent acts were committed on both sides of the Hungarian–Austrian border, and the people who committed these acts spared neither the lives of the locals nor the lives of the landowners nor their wealth. The case of the Scharfenecks, who owned lands in Moson County by the border (quasi in metis seu regni nostri confiniis situate) from the first decade of the fifteenth century, offers a good example.7 Frederick von Scharfeneck and his brother, Hermann, whose father John, originating from the Electoral Palatinate, had been living in Hungary since 1376, held the castle of Kittsee beginning in 1390. In the donation charter of the castle, they obliged themselves that no matter who they pledged or sold the castle and its belongings to, namely Pama, Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge, and Hof am Leithagebirge, these lands could not be alienated from the Kingdom of Hungary and the territory of the Hungarian crown.8 The building of the castle of Scharfeneck or Sárfenék in Moson County can be associated with the two boys (hence Hungarian historiography refers to them as Sárfenekis).9 According to the sources, the estates of the Scharfenecks by the border were threatened from the Austrian territories. As is clear from an account from March 1409, two of their villages, Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge and Hof am Leithagebirge, were threatened by complete depopulation due to the raids of plunderers and rogues, in answer to which the Scharfenecks received permission to resettle them.10 Frederick Scharfeneck neither seem to have tried to keep away from a little fray himself. According to a record dating to the beginning of 1412, he made forays into Austria and plundered the land of Pilgrim and Hans von Puchheim called Seibersdorf on the right bank of the River Lajta (in German Leitha), and he set the manor on fire there, occupied their castle, and, heading towards the lower course of the Lajta, did the same with the estate of the Hundsheimers.11 These forays might have happened in the previous year, so exactly when the border agreement was concluded.

If a ruler gave away or pledged Hungarian incomes to the members of the Habsburg family, this created a hotbed of conflict in the form of enduring violations of the border. In 1402 Sigismund, in compensation for his 16,000 golden florins of debt, pledged the incomes of the thirtieth customs places of Pressburg, Rusovce and Sopron (dreissigist zu Prespurg, zu Kerphemburg und zu Ödemburg) to Albert IV, duke of Austria, so that Albert could then run with his own thirtieth collectors and staff, which means that they had the right to assess and collect the customs on foreign trade at these three places in accordance with the thirtieth and chamber laws and customs (als des dreissigisten und unser kamerrecht und gewonheit ist).12 It is probably needless to say that these kinds of positions in the economy created numerous opportunities for abuse, and the foreign toll collectors could provoke hostility among the inhabitants of the kingdom, while the relationship between the towns close to the border and the Habsburg provinces was not untroubled at all.

Sopron, which in the fourteenth-century sources is referred to as a town on the border, as a gate of the Kingdom of Hungary (civitas Supruniensis in confmio Theutonie sita, quasi porta regni),13 made a complaint in 1408 to Leopold IV, duke of Austria, because of a raid against the town (von des angriffs wegen) in answer to which the duke buffered his responsibility by remitting the case to his brother, Ernest, claiming that the burghers of Sopron themselves also believed that he may have been behind the action as initiator.14 An entirely different view is reflected in a letter of a supporter of Duke Ernest, Erhart Sechel, who informed his lord of the plunders committed by the people of Sopron and the “people from the surroundings of Sopron” (gancz gegent) in Styria and Austria. Sechel, who probably was about to come to Hungary to merchandize, did not dare travel on his own, but despite his precautions, his goods were taken from him, and he himself was caught and brought to the castle of Bernstein (Pernstein).15 Accordingly, it is likely that, in the restriction of the personal freedoms of the Habsburg subjects, the castle that stood in Vas County (certainly not in the vicinity of Sopron) and its owners, the Kanizsai family, had some role. A royal diploma dating to June 1388 indicates that at the beginning of the Sigismund period, there was a practice in place of holding up (arrestatio) merchants from Vienna and Austria (mercatores de Vienna vel de Austria) at Óvár and Győr. 16 By every indication, the town of Sopron had serious conflicts with a member of the Stuchs family (mit demselben Stüchsen), who had holdings on the other side of the River Lajta around Trautmannsdorf.17 This is why, in 1408, Leopold IV was pleased that the town planned to keep peace with him and ordered his subjects not to attack the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary.18

One further change has to be noted in the first decades of Sigismund’s reign that affected the western section of the border of Hungary, namely, the final dissolution of the Árpád era border defense system. In 1391, Sigismund made a donation to László Sárói, ispán (comes) of Temes, estates in Zaránd Country in return for his service to King Louis I, king of Hungary, Queen Elisabeth, and Queen Mary since Queen Mary’s childhood.19 The ispán then exchanged these estates with the king for the estate of Güssing and the market town of Kőszeg that year. Thanks to the exchange, Sárói had an estate complex by the Hungarian–Austrian border that held the promise of major income. In addition to the market and customs incomes of Kőszeg, he also gained possession of Őr (Ewr; present-day Oberwart), Rudersdorf (Radalfalva), Kalteneck (Hydegzeg; part of present-day Bernstein), and Heiligenkreuz im Lafnitztal (Kerezthur), along with the customs collected at these places, Stegersbach (Zenthelek), with its customs and market incomes, and twenty smaller settlements.20 Sárói’s newly acquired estate complex was bordered by the River Lafnitz, which from the Sigismund-period onwards was referred to as a border river.21 Sárói, however, was not satisfied with the size of his lands, and in November, he picked out the Őrség, the area at the headwaters of the River Zala. This time, the donation hit a snag, or moreover met with opposition. As the local community, commonly referred to as Zala-defenders (universos spiculatores nostros vulgariter zalaewr nuncupatos), whose ancestors were settled in the area before the castle system became established to act as guards by the border, did not fail to express their protest and outrage. In February 1392, their delegates visited the king, who was staying at Eisenstadt, and drew his attention to the fact that László Sárói committed violations of rights when he asked for giving these people along with their lands to him, as they had not been given away by any previous kings, and they were free and were obliged with defending the country. Accordingly, they crabbed the installing of Sárói into the land. The king brought the case to the royal council, according to the decision of which Sigismund had acted rightfully when, excusing the guards from the obligation and burden of guarding the region (a iugo, conditione et onere ipsius spiculatoris servitutis), he had given them and their lands to Sárói as a donation, as they were subjects and were some extent committed to their lord (hereditarii subditi forent et conditionaliter obligati).22 Following this, on January 20, 1393, the king turned to the chapter of Esztergom and asked it to install László Sárói under the title of the previous donation to the lands of the Zalafő (Zalafew) estate and its belongings, namely Őriszentpéter (Zenthpetur), Ispánk (Yspank), Kisrákos (Rakos), Pankasz (Pankaas), Nagyrákos (Naghrakos), including its customs income, Szatta (Zatha), Szomoróc (Zomorok; part of present-day Kercaszomor), Kapornak (Kapurnuk), Hodoš (Hodoos), including its customs, and seven further settlements, despite the fact that he did not have himself installed within the given time, not having taken into account the possible objection of the defenders.23 The fate of the speculators of the Őrség, whose settlement was made possible by the order of Stephen V issued in 1270,24 was sealed with the act in February 1393. The assessment and position of guards (who originally belonged to the group of service peoples, but whose function – officium – was not to produce material goods, but rather to guard the frontier), because of their armed service in the Árpád era, was probably better than that of most service peoples.25 Some of their groups could also maintain their favorable position during the reign of the Angevin kings. In 1355, King Louis I transcribed the privilege letter of the royal guards of Őrimagyarósd confirmed by King Charles I in 1329.26 In 1327, Charles did the same with the guards who lived and owned lands between the Güssing and Berstein castles,27 and in 1339 he confirmed the freedoms and service of the royal guards of Gattendorf (spiculatores regiae maiestatis de Katha).28 The decrease of the social status of the speculators of Zala to tenant peasants is not imperative, as we know guards whose families Ladislas IV raised from the community of guards by granting them five hides of land (de consortio et collegio ipsorum speculatorum cum quinque aratris terrarum),29 and Charles I confirmed their status at the request of their descendants.30 These people first belonged to the group of servientes regis, then to the nobility, who went to war in the army led by the king (inter nobiles regni nostri computentur sub vexillo regio militantes).31 The dissolution of the aforementioned Árpád-era relic in the first decades of the reign of Sigismund cannot be solely attributed to the personal endeavors of László Sárói, but rather to the outdating of the arms of the guards on the western confines, which were not effective in the new military challenges of the fifteenth century.32 The extent to which it posed a threat for the Hungarian king or the Habsburg dukes to give a contiguous territory along the border which previously had been in royal hands to a landlord is another question. In the history of the Hungarian–Austrian border section, it was a recurrent event that either a Hungarian oligarch, using his land of significant size by the border, raided and plundered the provinces of the Habsburg dukes for decades or a noble who owned lands by the border taking advantage of the location of his holdings, partially or fully changed, from the side of Hungarian kings and swore to serve the Habsburg dukes.33

It was a general endeavor in the first decades of the Sigismund-period to settle the question of the Hungarian–Austrian border section and the desire to maintain peace on both sides of the border. With almost no exceptions, the preference was to see disputes settled through negotiations at conference tables. In the second year of his reign, in June 1388, Sigismund informed his subjects, mostly the inhabitants of Óvár and Győr, that he and Duke Albert III had decided to send some from their lords to the border (ad confinia regni, and ad limites Austriae) to negotiate and discuss the remedy, correction, and redemption of the incursions across the border, damages, harms, and discontents of the peoples of the two countries.34 On June 4, 1389, Sigismund addressed a letter from Buda to the duke informing him of his decision to appoint István Lackfi, palatine, Imre Bebek, judge royal, Leusták Jolsvai, master of the court, and Miklós Kanizsai, master of the treasury, to participate in the negotiations in question.35 Lackfi at the time, apart from being palatine, was also ispán of Moson and Győr Counties. Kanizsai also held the countships of Zala, Vas, and Sopron.36 So, because of their positions and lands, they were involved in the circumstances of the counties along the border. The document issued after the meeting has been preserved. It informs us of the negotiations of the appointees of Albert III, Hermann, count of Cilli,37 Johann von Liechtenstein marshal, Wulfing von Stubenberg, and Johannes von Dietrichstock master of forests in Austria (magister forestariorum Austrie) with the Hungarian party, which were held in Sopron on 18 June. However, one can identify a change in the delegates of Sigismund compared to those named on June 4, as instead of Leusták Jolsvai, master of the court, János Hédervári, the bishop of Győr, was present. On the Hungarian side, a prelate became a member, which as we shall see, had a tradition. According to the agreements reached at the meeting in Sopron, both rulers had to appear in person on the Day of Saint Giles (1 September) in the towns of Pressburg, and Hainburg so that the remaining disputed questions, on which no resolution had been reached, could be investigated and settled in the coming months. The two rulers and their subjects had to keep to the resolutions of the commission. It was also stated that both parties would attest that their people would not hold the subjects of the other ruler imprisoned or impede their free movement. In Sopron, resolutions were also made specifically on merchants; it was put down in writing that whoever participated in trade (whichever accepted route he took) should be able to do so as had been customary in the period of King Louis, Dukes Albert II, and Rudolf IV. If a new inequality were to raise its head, and should it appear in Hungary, it has be reported to the palatine and the master of the treasury, and if this were to happen in the lands of the Habsburgs, Johann von Lichtenstein and Wulfing von Stubenberg should be notified, the four of whom then should meet at a given place and date, and if necessary, negotiate and settle the question.38 The meeting at Sopron clearly indicates the intention of the rulers: to speed up and automatize the investigation and the remedy of the various incursions (which as noted above were frequent) by a mixed commission and to ensure that the rulers would intervene in this process only in cases of absolute necessity. The intent in the case of Sigismund could be explained by the fact that at the beginning of his reign, in order to solidify his rule in the Hungary, he was held spellbound by more important internal political difficulties than by the incursions across the borders, and he had to consider his ambitions in foreign policy, and this of course could ease the situation of the ruling Habsburg dukes as well, who frequently came into conflict with one another. However, as we shall see below, the system of the border commissions was not a Sigismund-era innovation, but rather was part of the Angevin-era legacy, as were the permanent unresolved disputes of the Hungarian–Austrian border sections.

There is no sign of the royal meeting settled for September 1 by the meeting at Sopron in the sources, and it is certain that Sigismund resided in Buda between August 20 and September 12,39 while in all likelihood Albert III was in Vienna.40 One cannot be certain that the two rulers met at all before the death of Albert III in 1395 in order to make up for the postponed meeting to negotiate the question of the border. On October 24, 1398, however, Sigismund issued a diploma at Ilok (Neunhofen), in the southern part of the country, in which he notes his agreement with the son of Albert III, Albert IV, and his cousin, the eldest member of the Habsburg family at the time, Duke William, in order to secure peace between the Kingdom of Hungary, Styria, and Austria. According to their agreement, every inhabitant of the countries in question, whether rich or poor, prelate or noble, ordinary (unedel), merchant and pilgrim, should be able to travel from these countries to the other with their goods freely, without the hindrance of his or her person or belongings. It was also stipulated that if a Hungarian subject were to lay a claim against a subject of the dukes, he would have to bring the case to the country which was legally authorized. Sigismund assured the dukes that no attack or other kind of incursions from the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary would take place in their provinces with his consent and any Hungarian subject who did not keep this agreement would be held accountable. If domestic people or foreigners caused loss and injustice in Austria or Styria and then sought protection in Hungary, the Hungarian king forbade his subjects from giving the person refuge. It was also stipulated that a subject of the Hungarian king could only buy or hold estates as pledges in Austria and Styria from that time on with the knowledge and consent of the dukes. If this were to happen against the will of the dukes, the buyer would immediately get his money back and had to eschew the property. The holdings that had already been (altes erb) in other hands, including vineyards and plow lands, (weingerten und ekerpau) however, were exceptions and could be kept without any obstacles. Finally, the Hungarian king appointed deputies who, in his absence, were entitled to serve in his stead in the disputes of the Hungarian–Austrian border section. By the border in Pozsony County (grafschefften Prespurger), Count Péter Szentgyörgyi and András Stiborici “Podczesfi,” i.e. one of the most influential noblemen in the county and the brother of the ispán of Pozsony were appointed. By Óvár (Altenburger) (indeed Moson), Sopron (Ödenpurger) and Vas (Eisenburger) counties, the as participants of the 1389 Sopron meeting already introduced János Hédervári, bishop of Győr, Miklós Kanizsai, former master of the treasury and István Kanizsai, master of the court were in charge. It is worth remembering that the latter family played a role in holding Erhart Sechel prisoner in Bernstein in 1408. And in case of a need for action on the border of the Wendish March41 and Styria, the king appointed Eberhart, bishop of Zagreb and Miklós Garai, ban of Slavonia.42 With regard to the 1398 arrangements, which mostly but not exclusively were meant to maintain peace by the Hungarian–Austrian border, some aspects are worth emphasizing. The most important of these aspects was the lack of mutuality. The points only seem to have applied to the subjects of the Hungarian kings, and only represented their perspective. It is possible that the two Habsburg dukes also issued a document similar in content which concerned their subjects; these documents, however, did not survive (if indeed they existed). The other circumstance that is worth noting concerns not the royal appointees authorized in the border issues, but the division of the border section, which also was not an innovation introduced by Sigismund of Luxemburg (I will return to this later).

As is clear from the incidents discussed above from the first decades of the fifteenth century, the 1398 arrangements certainly did not fulfill the hopes of the parties involved. This is how, in 1411, Sigismund signed a border treaty with Duke Albert V, who was freed from the guardianship. Unlike in the cases of his previous efforts, Sigismund considered an Angevin-period document signed between the two countries as an antecedent.

Antecedents from the Angevin Era

At the beginning of this article, I noted that the border treaty signed in Pressburg on October 5, 1411 renewed a document originating from the period of Louis I, Albert III, and Leopold III. The late-Angevin-period source is almost entirely unknown to historians,43 and it is known only in eighteenth-century transcriptions. It is also important to note that none of the transcriptions preserved the text in its entirety,44 so when analyzing its contents, we can only base our conclusions on the 1411 confirmation, although there are differences between the texts of the two agreements, as I will indicate in my discussion of the relevant passages.

The border treaty in question was signed in October 1372, almost on the anniversary of the armistice between Charles IV, Holy Roman emperor, and his supporters, the Austrian dukes, and the opposing Louis I, king of Hungary and Poland and his Bavarian allies, which was in effect until June 5, 1373.45 After that, in October 1372, Louis I negotiated with Charles IV on the Hungarian–Czech border. On October 16, he sat down with the Austrian dukes, Albert III and his brother Leopold III, in Sopron to settle disputes. At the Sopron meeting in 1372, similarly to the negotiations in 1389 in the same town, the focus was on the Hungarian–Austrian border section. The rulers put down in writing their intention to prevent new incursions across the border and hostilities along the border of their countries in the future. The Hungarian king vowed that neither he nor his subjects would attack the other side of the border,46 but if that were to happen, the two dukes or a duke and his master of the horse had to inform the palatine and the bishop of Zagreb at their earliest convenience, and the palatine and the bishop of Zagreb would then have two months to investigate and rectify the case.

In addition to the plundering and incursions across the border, there were other old unresolved issued concerning the border in question. These issues were negotiated six days after the Sopron meeting on October 22, in Wiener Neustadt. In the Styrian town, the rulers were represented by appointees consisting of three persons on each side; on the side of the dukes, Heidenreich von Maissau master of the cup-bearers and master of the horse, Albert von Puchheim, master of the table, and Kadold von Eckartsau, the Elder; on the Hungarian side, István Kanizsai, bishop of Zagreb (Stephan Gottes gnaden Bischof ze Agram), Imre Lackfi, the palatine (Emerich großen graff ze Hungern), and a third person unidentifiable on the basis of the transcription.47 (Lackfi is the brother of the abovementioned István, who took part in the 1389 negotiations, and also was ispán of Vas and Sopron at the time.) Based on the Hungarian members of the border commission, by the time of Sigismund’s reign the bishops of Zagreb, the Kanizsai family, and even the Lackfis must have had some experience in settling disputes by the border. The members of the commission asked Hermann, count of Cilli in consort, to have the final word in the case of a tie. The count can certainly not be identified as Hermann, count of Cilli, who participated in the meetings of 1389. Rather, it must be his father, who lived until 1385, but the Cilli counts, who then only owned lands in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire, were definitely major authorities in the questions of Hungarian–Austrian border disputes.

The decisions made on October 22, 1372 certainly addressed the issue of fishing rights (vischwaide) on the River Morava, which divided the part of Austria that fell to the north of the Danube River from Pozsony County, which according to the document on Austrian side were due to the landlords by the bank, and on the Hungarian side, the castellan of Dévénykő48 (burggraffe auf dem Tebenstain), who shared the river fifty-fifty.49 In the 1411 confirmation by Sigismund, it is clearly expressed at this point that the River Morava is the border between Hungary and Austria, and neither of the two parties can enter the territory of the other (da sol di March die grenicz und das gemerke sin zwischen Ungern und der Österreich, und sol ouch ein teyl, den andern an seinen teyle nicht ubergryffen).50 The 1372 treaty, however, held the fishing rights of those who had this privilege from ancient times. The border treaty also touched on the subjects of the dukes who owned vineyards in Hungary and put them in a position of advantage, as they did not have to pay the thirtieth on the vine they produced there, but only had to pay the tithe and the vineyard tax, (die uff dem ungrischen weingarten ligen haben, von dem das in dorynne wechset, und es sy dorinne verpawch, keinen dristigsten geben sollen, doch ussgenommen bergrecht und czehenden) which were the same as the duties paid by the Hungarian inhabitants. The arrangement made it possible for everyone who had had the right to do so from ancient times to pay the duties on vine in Viennese denars. It was also stated that the border was by the River Lajta, where the river runs along the border, but where the border and the river split, the old borders had to be kept. Hence, the order stated that no one could divert the Lajta with a ditch or dam (soll die Leutha niemand abkehrn weder mit graben noch mit wühren).51 If anyone had holdings on the Hungarian side of the border, they could not be disturbed, but if anyone had a related claim, the claim had to be made in Hungary. The same was true vice versa, i.e. the claims related to lands of the Austrian side of the Lajta had to be enforced in Austria (which reminds us of one of the points of the 1398 arrangements of Ilok discussed above). According to the treaty of 1372, the same principles were applied with regard to the fishing rights on the Lajta and other border rivers as on the River Morava. On the Hungarian side, the subjects of the Hungarian king and on the Austrian side the subjects of the dukes had the right to build mills and mill buildings (müllen und müllhäuser) by the bank. In order to provide water for the mills, the water could be backed up by dams directly upstream from the mill. However the earlier rights related to mills had to be respected. With regard to the importance of the arrangements, before 1372, there was only one treaty in the Hungarian–Austrian relationships that addressed similar questions. It was the 1225 peace treaty, which allowed Hungarian soldiers to build mills by the rivers along the border, even on both sides, but the water could not be diverted in a manner that would cause the majority of the water not to flow in the original riverbed.52 With regard to the ferry between Devín (Teben) and Rottenstein (Rotenstein), the 1372 agreement declared53 that the subjects of the Hungarian king could transport anyone and anything to the Austrian side, but they could not pick up anything or anyone at Rottenstein, as there, the men of Hans Straissing had the right to ferry to the Hungarian side, from where they could not ferry anyone or anything to the Austrian side.54 It was also stipulated that anyone had the right to choose freely what they produced on their lands. It is only included in the 1411 confirmation that punishment and fine was due if someone arrested or had somebody arrested in his lands (endhalden noch endhalden lassen soll), but in the meantime, no one could let anyone cross his lands if the man or men in question were about to threaten or attack anybody else (angryffen oder beschedigen wollte). But because of the document issued in Sopron on October 16, 1372, these stipulations may have been included in the border agreement of Wiener Neustadt as well.55 According to the 1411 confirmation, if anyone had a claim against an inhabitant of the other country, he had to announce this claim in the territory of the Hungarian and Austrian towns, according to the customs and laws, and he had to respect the laws of that country under pain of punishment. If someone failed to respect the laws of that country or committed perfidy, he joint efforts would be taken against him.56

The border treaty reached by the mixed commission in 1372 and the circumstances of its formation, namely the lack of specific regulation of the establishment and functioning of the commission, alludes to the customary nature of border commissions in settling similar disputes. Traces of this tradition go back to the last decade of the thirteenth century, to the peace treaty of Hainburg signed in 1291. The peace treaty, which put an end to the military campaign of the last Árpád ruler, Andrew III, is interesting from a number of perspectives, but in the context of the current article, the circumstances of its formation and one specific passage of the document are particular relevant.57 The treaty was reached during a meeting of a body consisting of eight representatives appointed by the two rulers on August 26 in the friary of the Friars Minor at Hainburg. Each of the two parties were represented by two clerics and two members of the lay elite.58 According to one stipulation of the treaty, the Austrian party chose two Hungarians and the Hungarians chose two Austrians and, in Styria, each party chose one person. These people were invested in the provinces in which they resided with full power to investigate, inform the ruler, chastise people who caused damages, and return the goods taken within a month of learning about the losses suffered.59 Though the text of the peace treaty indicates that four people were to be appointed at the next meeting of the two rulers, i.e. Albert I, duke of Austria, and Andrew III, there is no trace of their selection in the sources, nor is there any indication that the tasks assigned were actually performed. The plan to settle conflicts in the treaty of Hainburg can be considered a forerunner to the similar structure and purpose of the plans which were reached in the mid-fourteenth century.

The next document in chronological order which testifies to the attempts to address the issues of the Hungarian–Austrian border dates to the Angevin era. In 1336, Charles I, king of Hungary, signed an armistice with Albert II and Otto I, dukes of Austria, with the mediation of John, king of Bohemia.60 According to the document, for the period until June 8, 1337, both sides of the Hungarian–Austrian border were placed under the control of three border supervisors (tres custodes limitum), one to the north of the Danube, one to the south, and the third was in charge of the issues of the Styrian–Carniolan section of the border.61 This kind of north-south division of the border adumbrates the abovementioned 1398 Ilok arrangement of Sigismund, which basically sketched out the same triple division.

In the last years of the reign of Charles I, the conflict resolution methods envisaged by the 1291 agreement with regard to the Hungarian–Austrian border section were clearly adopted. On November 13, 1341, close to the end of his life, the king came to an agreement with Duke Albert II at Pressburg according to which they both chose three people from the counselors of the other person who would then be present on March 6, 1342 at Pressburg and Hainburg and would begin negotiations concerning the common border to investigate the losses and trespasses and remedy and make recompenses for them. The duke chose Peter, bishop of Srijem, Pál Nagymartoni, judge royal, and Tamás Szécsényi, voivode of Transylvania from the Hungarians, while the king chose Ulrich von Bergau, Ulrich von Pfannberg, and Ludwig von Otting. They also chose substitute members, Miklós Zsámboki, ispán of Turóc and Konrad von Schaunberg, so that in case of illness or absence of the members, the commission meeting would not be cancelled.62 Nagymartoni’s family had holdings in Sopron County along the border and, moreover, he had Austrian connections, as he had married the daughter of the landgrave, Albert von Pottendorf, Elisabeth.63 It is also striking that, with regard to the representatives of the king, a member of the ecclesiastic elite was on the commission. This later became a common phenomenon, while it was not characteristic of the Austrian side at all. It cannot be ruled out that the membership of a cleric on the commission was a guarantee of literacy.64 Despite the careful preparations, nothing indicates that the 1342 commission meeting actually took place.

The tendency, however, could have been promising, as Louis I, the successor of Charles I, already committed himself to setting up a mixed commission at the very beginning of his reign. Following the change of the ruler in the summer of 1342, the diplomatic overtures between the Austrian and Hungarian parties on the border section restarted in May 1345. In his diploma, issued at Visegrád, Louis stated to the subjects of the Austrian duke Albert II that he is open to providing compensation for the damages and losses caused by the Hungarian party.65 In the middle of December 1345, Louis I arrived for a meeting at Vienna, where he came to the conclusion with Albert II that they should continue and, furthermore, improve the negotiation system initiated in 1341. According to the decision of the Hungarian king and the Austrian duke (similarly to the armistice of 1336), the Hungarian–Austrian border section was to be divided into parts. (The division of the north-south positioned confines is not a fourteenth-century thought, as the structure decided in 1336 and is 1345 was almost identical to the territorial division of the former Carolingian marches.66) Furthermore, judges were ordered from both the Austrian and the Hungarian sides to preside over the border sections. Their task was to investigate and remedy the unlawful acts and damages of the previous period. Accordingly, people with territorial competence in the issues were appointed from the Kingdom of Bohemia to the Danube, from the Danube to Hartberg in Styria, from Hartberg to the River Drava, and from the Drava to the Wendish March (Marchia). To the section by the River Morava, on the Hungarian side Csenyik Ugodi Cseh, castellan of Červený Kameň, and Tamás Vörös, castellan of Újvár, were appointed, while on the Austrian side Konrad von Schaunberg and Leitold von Kuenring were chosen. To the section by the River Lajta, the aforementioned Pál Nagymartoni judge royal, whose family had local interests by the castles of Forchtenstein and Kobersdorf, and for the first time (but as we know not for the last time in the history of the border commissions), the Lackfi family was also represented, namely by István Lackfi, voivode of Transylvania. From the Austrian side, to the same area, Ulrich von Pfannberg and Eberhard von Wallsee were appointed. Along the river Lafnitz, on the Hungarian side, palatine Miklós Zsámboki and, again, judge royal Pál Nagymartoni were chosen, while on the Austrian, Ulrich von Wallsee and the Styrian Gottschalk von Neidberg had jurisdiction. For the southernmost border section, Miklós of the Hahót kin, ban of Slavonia and Cikó of Pomáz, castellan of Cheresig, were chosen, while the two Styrian nobles were Rudolf, count of Cilli (who also established the role of his family in issues of the Hungarian–Austrian border) and Ott von Liechtenstein. The mandate of the appointees lasted until February 2, 1346, by which time they had to investigate and remedy the previous alleged injustice. The importance of the case is indicated by the fact that on the Hungarian side, the most important office holders from among the barons also took part in the work. The rulers in December 1345 also thought of the long-term peace of the border sections. Namely, they also stipulated in writing that if in the future new damages were done, then the commission with jurisdiction in the area should reassemble and settle the case by coming to a decision within a month’s time. Prepared for everything, they also decided that if a commission would not be able to decide on the compensation correctly, the harmed person could not take the case in hand and seek redress or revenge, but rather should seek compensation from his lord.

At the Viennese meeting in December, decisions between the two rulers were made on further issues as well, namely on the issue of the Hungarian agricultural lands which were close to the border, with special regard to the Austrian lessees of vineyards.67 The question had been a source of tension between the two powers long before. In February 1324, Charles I took measures against the long-term Habsburg-subject lessees (a longo tempore retroacto) of lands in Moson and Sopron counties bordering the Duchy of Austria because the piece of lands called Alramus by the River Sár, i.e. the Lajta, was torn from the Hungarian king and the country (a nobis et regno nostro reputis metis nostris) by violating the border and was given as lease to Austrians.68 At the end of the same year, the king ordered the ispán of Sopron County and his vice-ispán to forbid the Austrians from using the lands of the country and the incomes from its crops (prohibeat quoslibet Australes ab usu et perceptione usus fructuum et utilitatum terrarum regni nostri). He also stipulated that Hungarians could not work in vineyards or forests and could not cultivate lands in the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary or by the River Lajta that are in Austrian hands by his or his predecessors’ grace and permission.69 The actions of Charles went against a system that had been in place for a long time by then, which let lands in lease, mostly vineyards by the border to Austrians for cultivation during which period upon paying the ordinary taxes the lessees could own their lands freely.70 The Habsburgs took all the measures to protect the interests of their subjects, so they could not bow to the aggravations of the Hungarian king, and in 1328, they got Charles I to accept Austrian lessees holding vineyards to continue vine cultivation on the border of the Kingdom of Hungary upon paying the usual land tax. It is also clear from the diploma of Albert II, duke of Austria, which settlements along the border were most interested in leasing vineyards in Hungary. On June 24, 1339, the duke gave permission to the burghers of Hainburg to bring the vine they produced or bought (pauwein und kaufwein) from harvest until the day of Saint Martin (November 11) from Hungary to Hainburg, but the latter they were not allowed to transport their goods any further than the town.71 Albert issued a permission with similar content to the burghers of Wiener Neustadt on November 8, 1342 allowing them to take the vine they produced in the Kingdom of Hungary through the Semmering Pass to Bruck an der Mur and Judenburg and through Schladming to Friesach and Rottenman.72 The 1345 agreement again provided the lessees of the vineyards of Devín (Dewen) Mountain with benefits, who from that time on did not have to pay more than half a Viennese denar as vineyard tax, which was the customary sum. In connection to this, one may recall the 1372 agreement, which specifically allowed the paying of the land tax in Viennese denars to those who had had the right since ancient times. The importance of the question of vine cultivators is well reflected by the fact that the decision dates to the same day and the renewal of the Hungarian–Austrian political alliance, and that rulers felt that they had jurisdiction in this issue.73

The system of mixed commissions set up in 1345, which was complicated in comparison with earlier attempts to address the issues at hand, became clearer when put into effect in 1372. The importance of the latter case is enhanced by the fact, that unlike on previous occasions, the commission was not only set up in writing but actually functioned in practice. The overview of somewhat more than a century in the history of the Hungarian–Austrian mixed commissions which were founded in order to maintain peace along the border offers insights into and examples of the process during which royal power shifted, in the strategies it adopted in order to address everyday and manifold breaches and dissensions which were common along the border, by negotiations rather than by military intervention. The stages of this practice can be identified in the Angevin era, from the change of perspective at the end of the reign of Charles I to the signing of the agreement of 1372. The points of the arrangement held true in the first decades of the fifteenth century, which is why it deserves special attention. Moreover, this is the first known document by neighboring rulers which set up a mixed commission. The text of the document has only been preserved in fragmented transcriptions, but its thanks to the renewal in 1411, it can be reconstructed. One of the lessons of the mixed commission system that was in charge of the Hungarian–Austrian border section is that while it aimed to unburden the rulers from decision making, it actually brought the two neighbors closer.



Archival sources

Archiv des Schottenstifts, Vienna, Austria (StiAscho)

Urkunden, Chronologische Urkundenreihe (Urkunden)

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár [The National Archives of Hungary] (MNL)

Országos Levéltár, Budapest, Hungary [The State Archive] (OL)

Mohács előtti gyűjtemény [Collection of Documents from the Period before
the Battle of Mohács (1526)] (Q)

Diplomatikai levéltár [The Archive of Diplomatics] (DL)

Fényképgyűjtemény [The Photographic Collection] (U)

Mohács előtti fényképgyűjtemény [The Photographic Collection of
Documents from the Period before the Battle of Mohács (1526)] (DF)

Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv, Vienna, Austria (WStLA)

Hauptarchiv (HA)

Urkunden (Urk)


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1 On the betrothal, see Mályusz, Zsigmond király uralma, 123; Hönsch, Kaiser Sigismund, 142. On the state of Austrian internal policy: Niederstätter, Die Herrschaft Österreich, 198–99.

2 The quotations in the main text come from: MNL OL DF 287 078. Edition and summary of the document: Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 10/5, 125–30, Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, vol. 3. no. 1022.

3 Redeeming Devín certainly was not successful in 1411. In an undated memorandum that can be dated to between the autumn 1412 and the beginning of 1414, Sigismund, who was abroad, advises the ailing Stibor to take military action against Hering, who had been keeping the castle of Devín in his hands for years. In his detailed order, he suggests that it is needless to build siege bastions opposite the castle, as his bigger cannon, which, including the big ballista, was at Buda, along with Master Mihály (“non oportet, ut ec adverso castri Dewyn bastitas parare facias, quoniam bambarda nostra maior cum magna mangana seu machina, que unacum magistro Michaele Bude existunt, unde sufficiunt ad expugnacionem predicti castri…”). He furthermore ordered that the voivode, in accordance with János, archbishop of Esztergom, should call Péter Forgács, bishop of Győr, and the other royal nobles and the nobles of the neighboring counties to launch an insurrection and a siege of Devín. Heimpel, “Aus der Kanzlei Kaiser Sigismunds” 179–80. The campaign however, probably due to the death of Stibor at the beginning of 1414, was not completed. Devín finally was redeemed from Hering by palatine Miklós Garai in 1414. Engel, Archontológia 1301–1457, vol. 1. 300.

4 For the edition of the Sigismund diploma: Wenzel, Stibor vajda, 145, Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, vol. 3. no. 1085. Devín was redeemed by Sigismund from the Moravian margrave, Jodok in 1390, and probably was pledged to Hering then. Cf. Engel, Archontológia 1301–1457, vol. 1. 300. Sigismund redeemed the castle of Ostrý Kameň in 1390 from the Moravian margrave Prokop in 1390 and then donated it to Stibor Stiboric in 1394. It is not clear when was it pledged, but the castle was probably redeemed in 1411, along with Devín. Cf. Engel, Archontológia 1301–1457, vol. I. 308.

5 StiAscho Urkunden 1397-04-02. (I used the image available on Monasterium.net, where the document is under the register number: 1397 IV 12.)

6 WStLA – HA Urk no. 1882. (I used the image available on Monasterium.net.)

7 Sopron vármegye története, vol. 1. 590.

8 April 24, 1390: MNL OL DF 104 816, Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, vol. 1. no. 1463; Engel, Archontológia 1301–1457, vol. 1. 407.

9 The castle was named after their family castle in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1416, following the extinction of the Scharfeneck family, István Kanizsai took it as a pledge. A year later, he handed it on to the Wolfurts. See Engel, Archontológia 1301–1457, vol. 1. 348. and vol. 2. 261.

10 “Per creberimas invasiones predonum, profugorum et proscriptorum australium quasi ad totalem devenissent desolacionem…” Sopron vármegye története, vol. 1. 590.

11 Lampel, “Die Leithagrenze,” 126; Lichnowsky. Geschichte des Hauses Habsburg, vol. 5. CXXV–CXXVI. no. 1365.

12 MNL OL DF 287 048, Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, vol. 2. no. 2019.

13 Sopron szabad királyi város, vol. 1/1. 27.

14 MNL OL DF 201 991 (erroneously dated to May 27, 1408 in the MNL OL DL-DF database).

15 Sopron szabad királyi város, vol. 1/2. 8–9.

16 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 10/1. 431–33.

17 It was probably Georg Stuchs. See Trauttmannsdorff, Beitrag, 78–86.

18 MNL OL DF 201 996.

19 A Balassa család levéltára, no. 196.

20 Ibid., no. 197.

21 The River Lafnitz formed the Styrian and Vas County section of the Hungarian–Austrian border between Neustift an der Lafnitz and Königsdorf. There are only few references to the river from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and in the perambulation of Buchschachen in 1331 the river is not referred to as a border river. MNL OL DL 99 934; Anjou-kori oklevéltár, vol. 15. no. 347. The earliest reference to the river as a border river dates to 1423, when János Gersei, ispán of Vas and Zala counties, informed the noble judges that one his noblemen was attacked at Gattendorf and was taken to the Austrian border and thrown into the Lafnitz with his head tied between his legs. Arrows were then shot at him, and he was murdered with exceptional cruelty. “Ad terminos et metas Austrie deducendo et capite eius inter pedes ipsius ligato ad aquam Lapynch proiciendo…” Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, vol. 10. no. 1174, and no. 1512.

22 A Balassa család levéltára, no. 199.

23 Ibid., no. 204, and no. 206.

24 Hazai okmánytár, vol. 8. 129. The order of Stephen V issued in 1270 to the guards of Őrimagyarósd has been discussed by Attila Zsoldos, see Zsoldos, “Confinium és marchia,” 110–12.

25 Ibid., 111.

26 Anjou-kori oklevéltár, vol. 13. no. 645.

27 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 8/3. 179.

28 Ibid., vol. 8/4. 375–76.

29 Az Árpád-házi királyok okleveleinek kritikai jegyzéke, no. 2635.

30 Anjou-kori oklevéltár, vol. 11. no. 428.

31 Az Árpád-házi királyok okleveleinek kritikai jegyzéke, no. 2635.

32 Mályusz, Zsigmond király uralma, 135.

33 On the relationship between the fourteenth-century landowners by the border and the Austrian provincial elite and dukes, see Groß, “Zur Geschichte.” On the second half of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth, see Péterfi, Egy székely két élete; Péterfi, “A Lajtán innen.” On the Austrian connections of the Kőszegi family in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, see Skorka, “A mohó farkas.”

34 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 10/1. 432.

35 MNL OL DF 258 468. (Photo 43–45.)

36 Engel, Archontológia 1301–1457. vol. 1. 4, 38.

37 It was Hermann II, the future brother-in-law of Sigismund, who died in 1435.

38 MNL OL DL 39 269, Zsigmondkori oklevéltár, vol. 1. no. 1063.

39 Engel and C. Tóth, Itineraria, 62.

40 Lichnowsky, Geschichte, vol. 4. DCCLXXVII. no. 2177–2184.

41 It belonged to Carniola in the second half of the fourteenth century.

42 MNL OL DF 258 005.

43 The existence of this source is only referred to in an inauguration speech to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences held by Imre Nagy on the history of the Lajta as a border river. See Nagy, “A Lajta mint határfolyam,” 459.

44 MNL OL DL 24 809 (fragment), MNL OL DL 87 470, MNL OL DF 258 468, and MNL OL DF 286 412. The quotations in the present study are from the following document: MNL OL DF 258 468 (images 39–43). The text of the transcription of the border treaty was published in printed form in 1830: Böheim, Chronik von Wiener-Neustadt, vol. 1. 96–99.

45 The conflict unfolded concerning ownership of the Margravate of Brandenburg; for the diplomatic events, see Skorka, “A Habsburgok és a magyar Anjouk,” 652–54.

46 “Wir, noch die unsern dheinen angriff newung noch ufflouf tun noch machen sullen uber die gemerke unsrer Lande…” MNL OL DF 257 995.

47 Based on the transcriptions, the name reads as Eschliniunus, or Oschlinang.

48 It is probably the same as the castle of Devín.

49 On the importance of the mills, fishing and other riparian rights in the pre-industrial period, see: Winiwarter et al., “The Environmental History,” 108–18.

50 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 10/1. 126.

51 On the border river diversions, see the article of Bence Péterfi in the present issue of the journal.

52 Urkundenbuch des Burgenlandes, vol. 1. 101–2.

53 On the ferry between Devín and Rottenstein, see Walterskirchen, “Zur Geschichte.”

54 The name Hans Straissing is not present on the confirmation of 1411, only that of the Austrian dukes. The agreement is interesting, as in his inauguration speech to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Imre Nagy suggested that Rottenstein belonged to the castle of Devín from “beyond memory.” Nagy, “A Lajta mint határfolyam,” 451.

55 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 10/1. 128–29.

56 Ibid., 129.

57 On the history of the military campaign, see most recently: Skorka, Előjáték egy házasságkötéshez.

58 Ibid.

59 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 6/1. 180–85.

60 For the antecedents to the armistice and its details, see: Skorka, “A csökkentett vámtarifájú út.”

61 Diplomataria sacra ducatus Styriae, vol. 1. 275.

62 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 8/4. 495–97.

63 Anjou-kori oklevéltár, vol. 26. no. 184.

64 Even in the case of the treaty of Pressburg concluded in 1491 one finds examples of deputies of the Hungarian aristocracy who were illiterate. Cf. Neumann, “Békekötés Pozsonyban,” 297.

65 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 9/7. 484.

66 Brunner,Der burgenländische Raum.” 247.

67 On the vineyards, see Prickler, “Zur Geschichte des burgenländisch-westungarischen Weinhandels;” Prickler, “Adalékok a szőlőművelés történetéhez;” Prickler, “Weingartenbesitz.”

68 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 8/2. 536. On Alramus, see Kring, “A magyar államhatár kialakulásáról,” 14–15.

69 “Non permittendo laboratores laborare in vineis Australium quorum-cunque, nec percipere silvas vel coli alios agros suos, quos quidem Australes in regno nostro circa aquam Saar de nostra vel progenitorum nostrorum gratia et concessione hactenus possederunt.” Sopron szabad királyi város, vol. 1 /1. 87.

70 “Sub antiquo et consuetu censu et pensione solita reservamus, sine quovis impedimento colendas, et pro ipsorum usibus libere possidendas.” Anjou-kori oklevéltár, vol. 12. no. 422.

71 Lichnowsky, Geschichte des Hauses Habsburg, vol. 3. CCCCXLIII. no. 1207.

72 Ibid., no. 1317.

73 Codex diplomaticus Hungariae, vol. 9/1. 285–86.